Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Viral woes

By now the flu hysteria is dying down, the current scuttlebutt being that perhaps the would-be pandemic isn't quite as serious as previously thought. Or maybe it isn't nearly as serious as previously thought. Or maybe it's just that the talking heads are getting bored with it. Or maybe the public is. Darn it all, I was just getting ready to introduce my new line of pandemic-chic outerwear, footwear and jewelry, featuring designer face masks, haz-maxi dresses and biohaz jumpsuits, biohaz-symbol earrings and pendants, hazmat high-heeled boots, and the like. All is not lost, though: we are in the Age of Pandemics, and there will no doubt be many more product ops, so I'll keep my sketches handy.

Even though the current pandemic scare is fizzling, damage has been done. There has been widespread alarm, if not quite a worldwide panic. There have been renewed hysterical campaigns to "close the border" with Mexico. Untold thousands of folks probably began taking powerful anti-flu drugs unnecessarily, thus not only risking personal harm but also unwittingly speeding up the development of newer and more resistant strains of flu, or maybe even a stronger "second wave" of the current bug. (I apologize to any anti-evolutionists who are firmly convinced that G_d created life, the Universe and everything in six days a few thousand years ago, and that evolution is a big hoax. But work with me here, okay? Besides, what are you doing on this blog anyway?)

Even as the micro-critters become steadily more resistant to everything we can throw at them, we bigger critters are in danger of becoming more resistant to public-health warnings. When something really serious and deadly comes down the pike, many may be far less likely to take proper precautions.

More subtle ill effects have also occurred. For one thing, domestic pigs have once again gotten a bad rap. Although officially designated H1N1 flu, the bug that caused such a stir in the Americas and raised a few eyebrows worldwide has most commonly been referred to as "swine flu." Yet the experts say it's a combination of human, swine, and avian strains. I was thinking that maybe it should be called huswavian (pronounced hyoo-SWAY-vian) flu, but huswavian has way too many syllables for the average busy American, and it sounds more like an Armenian surname than a disease. So maybe I'll just call it noofloo. The point is that I seriously think we need to stop blaming Porcine-Americans for stuff that isn't their fault.

On the up side, the manufacturers of waterless hand sanitizers are really cleaning up, so to speak. Once again I've proven myself to be ahead of the curve; I have been carrying itty-bitty bottles of waterless hand sanitizer in my purse for years and years.

"Oh, Cosmic Connie," I can hear some of you groaning. "No matter what you call it, the flu flap is soooo other-blogs and MSM. Not to mention très overdone. Don't you have better things to write about? Besides, how can this possibly be related to your beat?"

Those are good questions, Dear Ones, but, apart from the fact that I reserve the right to occasionally stray from my normal beat, this is in fact a topic that is entirely relevant to my Whirled. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that some of you already know where I'm going with this. (I am nothing if not predictable.)

First of all, many in the New-Wage/selfish-help biz have had something to say about the noofloo. F'rinstance, Secret star David Schirmer, Australia's leading expert on everything, offered his professional opinions on Twitter:

SWINE FLU! HOW STUPID! Dis-ease is always created in the mind. Amazing how drug companies purpetuate [sic] such fear. from web

@missjordanoslie drug co.'s + media. Disease is ALWAYS creatd [sic] in the mind frm fear. Fear causes the mind 2 be not-at-ease (dis-ease) from TweetDeck in reply to missjordanoslie

@m1ch43lf Yes Micheal, reporters & media is responsible for so much damage in society. Fear creates reality. from TweetDeck in reply to m1ch43lf

@missjordanoslie We will never know y those 159 people died. Many ppl take what the media delivers & believe it as truth without question! from TweetDeck in reply to missjordanoslie

@missjordanoslie A great book to read is the Bird Flu Hoax, will give you a different perception about the dreaded swine flu from TweetDeck in reply to missjordanoslie

Don't bother to try to follow those links to "missjordanoslie." She protects her updates. Well, lah-de-dah.

Naturally, I had been wondering whether Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale would have anything to say about the noofloo. Since Joe has a tendency to gloss over or completely ignore the worldly woes that dominate the headlines (or to put his foot in his mouth when he does mention them), I had been wondering if he would acknowledge the noofloo at all. If he did mention it, I wondered, would he simply advise his followers to "refuse to participate" in the pandemic by ignoring the mainstream media, in much the same way that he advised them about the recession? Or would he acknowledge the existence of a flu bug scare but dismiss it as an overreaction due to the machinations of the mainstream media, the drug companies, etc., kind of like David Schirmer did?

As it turned out, Joe did mention the noofloo several times on Twitter – all in the service of promoting a new health blog by one Marcus L. Gitterle, MD:

3 May, 2009: Get the inside scoop about #swineflu from an ER med doc I trust http://www.health-sense.com

2 May, 2009: New health info http://www.health-sense.com

30 April 2009: Truth about Swine Flu http://tinyurl.com/clctgd

That April 30 link leads to a post that has since been removed. More on that in a moment.

Dr. Gitterle, who among other things is an emergency room director in a central Texas hospital, recently found himself at the center of a controversy. For the past week or so, Internet noofloo watchers and random alarmists have been all agog about an email Dr. G. sent out to a few folks last week, following his attendance at a public-health meeting about the noofloodemic. Apparently he was exposed to some alarming information at the meeting, and his good wife suggested that he share that information with a few people. (I don't think he was going all Adam-and-Eve or anything (as in, "The woman whom you put here with me--she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it!"). More likely, he was simply trying to give his wife proper credit.)

The gist of his message – at least according to the version appearing on this site* – was that the epidemic was many times worse than had been publicized so far. Among other things, the email claimed that the virulence, or deadliness, of the virus was as bad in the US as in Mexico, and that there were swine flu victims on ventilators in the US, fighting for their lives, even as he was writing his email.

The version of the email linked to above also noted that some fudging was going on in the reporting of the cases, and it stated that the virus had "crossed the threshold" for a Phase 6 global pandemic status. Finally, it suggested that a nutritional supplement called N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) might be helpful, as might a homeopathic remedy known as Oscillococinum.

Dr. G. later explained that he had intended his email to be only for close friends and family. I have no doubt that this is the case, but I would think that anyone who has been on the Internet for more than a couple of weeks would know how "close friends and family" have a tendency to forward even marginally interesting emails to everyone they know, plus everyone's dog, plus the horse that everyone rode in on. This is especially likely to happen if the topic is a hot one, and it is almost certainly bound to occur if you don't warn your recipients to keep it confidential, which apparently the doctor did not do.

The upshot was that Dr. Gitterle's "private" email went viral. In the process, according to Dr. G., it was edited and added to and just generally distorted. It was also exploited by some with their own agendas, such as one of those whack-job conspiracy journos who perpetrates a radio show and a few web sites that dare to tell you the "truths" the lib'ruls and the MSM and the New-World-Orderites are deliberately and maliciously keeping from you. (In that sense the conspiro-journos are much like New-Wage marketeers who trade in revealing all the secrets that "they" don't want you to know.) My own brief Googling revealed that some born-agains waiting for Jeezus to return also found Dr. G.'s email worthy of sharing.

To make matters worse, some people apparently included Dr. G.'s full contact information in the forwarded emails, and some even told folks that they could reach the doctor through the hospital that employed him. (The hospital was obliged to inform the media that the doctor was not speaking on the hospital's behalf.)

On or about April 30, Dr. Gitterle published a blog post, "From the Front Lines of the Pandemic: An Update," that appeared to be a somewhat toned-down version of the email he had sent. Some accused him of backpedaling, but, giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was simply clarifying. In retrospect, it appears that the post was his first attempt at damage control. But the point is pretty much irrelevant, because that blog post is now gone.

On May 1, however, he published two more posts, the first one simply stating that a fraudlent and edited email of his was circulating the Internet, and the second one detailing his frustrations about the event. "In the future," he wrote, "if I send such a message to friends and family, I will certainly be careful to enjoin folks against forwarding it, if it could be a source of controversy or misunderstanding."

According to a May 1 story in the Austin-American Statesman...

Dr. Marcus Gitterle...said he regretted calling the virus deadlier and doesn't believe it's any worse than seasonal flu, which causes an estimated 36,000 U.S. deaths annually. But he said he does believe the case count is probably many times higher than the state or federal government is reporting.

Despite the blowback, many lauded Dr. G. as a hero for sharing important information that no one else was sharing. Even though it would seem that some of the concerns expressed in his email turned out to be exaggerated, and some of the information turned out to be erroneous, some people were willing to give the doctor props for good intentions.

Follow the money trail
Dr. Marc Gitterle is a longtime friend and business partner of Joe Vitale, who has promoted or written about Dr. G. several times on his own blog. Dr. G. returned the favor, writing a cover blurb for Zero Limits, Joe's 2007 book about the Hawai'ian healing method, Ho'oponopono (you knew you'd seen his name here before, didn't you?). Said Dr. G about ZL:

I love this book! I feel it will be the definitive personal-change/self-help book for at least a generation and viewed as a watershed event by historians. There is real potential for this book to start a movement that will end war, poverty, and the environmental devastation of our beloved planet.

Dr. G. and Joe are partners, along with Internet marketer and product creator Jeff Sargent, in a company called Frontier Nutritional Research. So far they've created a cholesterol-lowering nutritional supplement called CardioSecret (which, according to the site, is no longer available, though no explanation is given), and a bodybuilding supplement called A-Pac. They are also creators of the Fit-A-Rita, a "healthy" margarita mix. Frontier Research is also involved in research about longevity and alternative energy.

Since he devoted not one, not two, but three Twitter entries (thus far) to Dr. Gitterle's blog, my first thought was that Joe was either (1) going above and beyond the call of duty to show his support to his pal and business partner in light of the Internet furor; or (2) prepping for a launch (or re-launch) of a line of Dr. G-and-Joe supplements and/or info-products (perhaps to aid people in dealing with this and future "pandemics"); or (3) both.

On one of his May 1 blog posts, Dr. Gitterle wrote that he had been planning his new blog for some time as a means to discuss various health issues, and particularly to share information on the use of nutritional supplements to bolster the immune system. He explained that he never intended the blog to be a forum for discussing the noofloo, but added that he will try to post anything that in his opinion is "objective, rational information that might help us, as citizens, to partner with public officials in minimizing the impact of the pandemic."

I have no reason to doubt that Dr. G. is a competent physician who is genuinely concerned about public welfare and patient health. Moreover, I am sure he is a loving family man and friend, and I imagine that he had some altruistic motives for writing that initial email, as well as the "disappeared" blog post. However, as this incident no doubt reminded him, a public health professional – particularly an emergency-room physician who describes himself as being "on the front lines of the pandemic" – needs to err on the side of caution and discretion when sharing information with anyone, especially in writing. Because of his professional standing, anything he says or writes, even, unfortunately, in a "private" communication, will have considerably more import than the words of some garden-variety alarmist layperson. That's why the media, both legit and otherwise (and fairly or unfairly) jumped on Dr. G.

In addition, I have a feeling that some folks, particularly those in the medical profession, were put off by the fact that Dr. G.'s email contained a recommendation for a homeopathic remedy such as Oscillococcinum for flu symptoms. (I should note, however, that he does not seem to be advocating these alternatives as a substitute for allopathic medicine, only as a complement.)

For me, the central point is the fact that Dr. Gitterle is a business partner of Joe Vitale. This is not to say that Dr. G. was or is motivated chiefly by a desire to promote products or services in which he might have some kind of financial interest. I do not know him, so I have no idea. I am simply suggesting that when evaluating any information he shares, it might be useful to be aware of his other interests. The same is true of any doctor or other professional. Doctors are certainly not immune to letting their vision be clouded by dollar signs. (An early-1990s incident with Deepak Chopra and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) comes to mind. Dr. Chopra, an M.D., swore to the JAMA that he did not stand to gain financially from an article he'd co-authored about the traditional Indian healing method, Ayurveda, although in point of fact he had financial interest in a line of Ayurvedic products mentioned in the article.)

In other words, it is always a good idea to follow the money trail.

Yada, yada...yagya?!?
Dr. G. has another interest that might raise a few eyebrows. Besides being an M.D. and a creator and peddler of nutriproducts, he is apparently a long-time advocate of
yagyas, or yagnas, those pricey Hindu prayer rituals that he and his pal Joe Vitale have referred to as "karmic surgery." Joe wrote about yagyas in his book The Attractor Factor, and also mentioned them on his blog a few years ago as one of the aids that helped him to finally lose weight permanently. (Well, maybe "permanently" was a bit of an overstatement. Irrational exuberance, as it were. Or overly enthusiastic marketing.) Joe even credited a yagya for bringing Spiritual Marketing, the book that eventually became The Attractor Factor, to a mainstream publisher's attention.

I've written about this matter here before, but for the benefit of those who don't know, here is a link to a piece about yagyas that mentions both Joe and Dr. Gitterle. This story was apparently taken straight from The Attractor Factor, the first edition of which was published in 2005. The tale appeared unchanged in the revised edition of the book, which came out in 2008. The "best friend" Joe mentioned in his yagya anecdote was his late ex-wife, who passed away in October of 2004, nearly four years after their divorce was final. Although her passing was noted elsewhere in both editions of The Attractor Factor, it was not mentioned in the story of how she was miraculously saved from death by a yagya. I am sure it was just an oversight.

Now, whether Dr. Gitterle and/or Joe have or had any financial interest in any company or organization that sells or brokers yagyas, I couldn't tell you. To me, the very fact that they advocate yagyas is noteworthy, whether or not they stand to gain financially. It's one of those things that makes you go, "Hmmm," as the late comedian George Carlin would say. However, FYI, here is the link to the yagya company mentioned in the article I linked to in the paragraph above. It also happens to be the yagya resource recommended in the list at the back of The Attractor Factor. Although the yagyas are actually performed in India, the company appears to be owned by an Asheville, North Carolina couple, Chuck and Annette Hunner. You have to go through them to make arrangements for a yagya. Chuck and Annette are also into sculpting, jewelry making, and labyrinths.** Here's another one of their web sites.

But back to the noofloo. I think I understand something of the frustration and dismay that Dr. Gitterle has experienced as a result of his impulsive email. But I have a feeling that with Joe Vitale in his corner, he will emerge from this mess just fine, and the two of them will even be able to squeeze a few products from it. In fact, I think we can count on it. [Note: see July 26 follow-up below.]

Meanwhile, the people who are really suffering from the noofloo are the pig farmers. They need your prayers.

For that matter, so do the poor pigs.

* Some folks wrote to Dr. Gitterle's blog asking him why he didn't publish his original email so people could compare it to any altered forms that may have been distributed. Thus far he has yet to answer those questions, but he did publish a comment from a contributor named Kevin C., who shared the email he had received (it's on this post, 8th comment). This seemed to be the same email that appeared on the page I linked to above. As Dr. G. did not refute Kevin's implication that this was the email that had originally been sent I will assume that the bits I quoted above were in fact in Dr. Gitterle's original email.
** Speaking of the labyrinth trend, I made fun of it here a couple of years ago.

For more:

Snopes on the noofloo:
http://www.snopes.com/medical/disease/swineflu.asp

A forum that contains the text of both the most commonly shared version of Dr. Gitterle's email and his deleted April 30 blog post (but put on your boots, because you're going to have to wade through some conspiracy theorizing):
http://www.thetreeofliberty.com/vb/showthread.php?t=59310

Follow-up on July 26, 2009: To begin with, Dr. Gitterle's blog is now empty; all of the controversial posts are gone. But swine flu is the story that just won't go away, although health experts had always said we hadn't seen the last of this strain of nooflu (or of nooflu hysteria). And although he may have blundered a bit in his handling of the information to which he was privy back in May, it seems Dr. G. is being vindicated somewhat. According to a July 24 Associated Press story, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia are now saying that up to forty percent of Americans could get the swine flu this year and next, and several hundred thousand could die unless there is a successful vaccine and other effective prevention measures (which health experts are hard at work on even as I write). The flu has already killed several hundred Americans and has displayed an unexpected ability to continue spreading in the summer, not normally known as flu season. Thus far the U.S. has been hit harder by this strain than any other country.

Maybe Dr. G. should arrange for a few extra-special flu-prevention yagyas just to be on the safe side. And I am sure that if the noofloo does become a big deal again worldwide, we'll also hear more from medical expert David Schirmer. Remember, boys and girls, disease is all in your mind, and the wicked mainstream media are just perpetuating fear and disease. Or, in Schirmer parlance, they are leaving you open to the influence of Satan, who, as we learned in a recent Schirmer blog post, is the source of all disease (see his post of 24 July 2009).

And if you really want to see some noofloo hysteria, turn off that mainstream media and turn on some wacko alt-media. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another excellent post! I think these self titled guru wankers should take a really hard look at what they are doing right now because the personal development ride is a commin to an end. When you are down and out, who the hell wants to listen to Joe V buying another car, David S twitting another tweet with some prophetic NONsense or any of them basically crapping on about stuff they knwow very little about and live it even less. Its all on borrowed time and the time for paying up is right now.

Friday, May 08, 2009 5:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Peter Fellows said...

Dear Connie,

You are like the Sherlock Holmes of Shlock!

About the flu 'formerly known as Swine Flu,' it WAS as bad as feared ORIGINALLY.

Here is the inside scoop on what happened:

I, and my dog Cagney, transformed the pandemic into a milder form of flu. We first began an intense and deep meditation (well, it was an afternoon nap) and then did some CLEARING of the planet (well, we tidied up my Study... well, I did, Cagney just watched - can dogs LAUGH at people?)

I got the idea from how TM was PROVEN to lower crime rate in some cities.

So you see, Princess of Snarkiness, you were WRONG.

You'll have to excuse me now, I have a cold to nurse.

Cheers,
Peter

Friday, May 08, 2009 6:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Rational Thinking said...

Yes let's hear it for the pigs. First off, we start transplanting pig organs to humans, then have all sorts of problem with Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses. Then we get a threat of a pandemic, and rush to slaughter the animal en masse. There is no evidence of animal to human transmission anyway. Oh good grief. It's a sad testament to the human condition that our first reaction to any perceived threat is to rush off and slaughter things.

Just by way of interest, I heard a presenter on the BBC last week asking one of the UK experts (though how anybody can BE an expert on this yet I have no idea) whether the media was in danger of over-hyping this. Great question. The "expert", however, thought not. Scare-mongering seems to have become a national pastime :-)

Friday, May 08, 2009 7:00:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon 5:42 AM: Thanks! But I have to say that there still seem to be a few folks willing to pay money for some of the New-Wage gurus' "wisdom." Borrowed time? Maybe. But they're sure cleaning up now.

Friday, May 08, 2009 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Oh, Peter, thank you so much for your work on behalf of the whole world. That you dared to risk your own health for the rest of us leaves me humbled.

"For Peter so loved the world..."

I smell a book idea, if not an entire religion. Nice work! (However, I think you might end up having to share some of the credit with my pal Mojo, who almost certainly performed one of her snoring meditations to help tame the pandemic.)

Friday, May 08, 2009 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

RT, I've always thought that pig-to-human transplant thing was not such a hot idea. (For that matter, isn't some common bio-identical thyroid medication manufactured from pig thyroids? Is that such a good idea? (Armour apparently makes thyroid meds as well as hot dogs.))

Anyway. Scare-mongering is not just a national or international pastime; it is an entire industry. Between the various pandemic threats and 2012, plus the traditional End-Timer alarmists and conspiracy theorists, I'm seeing scads of potential product ops. Yippee!

Friday, May 08, 2009 11:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Julie E said...

David Schirmer is a very arrogant man. Any wonder none of the secret teachers are doing business with him any more. Its like there is something about the guy that i just don't like, I can't pinpoint it but it turns me away because it feels wrong. His arrogant comment about swine flu is typical and makes you think, hope he gets it. He must have something about himself that he really hates to be so arrogant.

Friday, May 08, 2009 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Peter Fellows said...

Dear Connie,

Those were but "wild and whirling words." No book idea there! I prefer to write only from my own experience. That could either be narcissism or (I prefer to think) a refusal to assume that just because something works for me it must work for everyone else.

As for the Merchants of Money Magic; well, to me they are only the Zen Master's stick. Maybe it's okay for people to give responsibility for their lives to the gods of self help, religion or government. Maybe it's just their way of 'breaking their mind.'

Whether its Joe Vitale or Pat Robertson or Barack Obama, if I expect someone else to make me happy and fulfilled, I will always be disappointed but maybe some people need that kind of a whack. Nothing wrong with that.

Salvation shlock (in whatever venue or mode - they are all equal) always has the same sales pitch, "I can make your life better."

But aren't we free to give up the right to think for ourselves; to believe that someone else can clean up our mess?

Okay, it's true that in the case of my dog, Cagney, someone else (me) does clean up his mess, but the difference is, he has no expectation. He is fine with leaving it where it is.

Hmm, perhaps that last bit about Cagney comes perilously close to providing a simile for the quality of the material in this post. Well if so, perhaps I should follow his example and just drop this post here, without expectation!

Cheers,
Peter

Saturday, May 09, 2009 6:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Lana said...

Noofloo - I like it. It's easy to remember, and quite catchy (ha).

I missed the Dr. G fiasco. Good thing I visit your blog! Too weird...

Did you see this on the yagya FAQ page?

"Q. I sent you all this money and I've not seen any results. What gives?
A. Sometimes the results of yagyas are not obvious. I've even been told by one pandit that one must sometimes wait life times to see the results of yagyas!"

Wow. Like taking candy from a baby. All together now: I've gotta find me a scam!

Saturday, May 09, 2009 9:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you are constantly experiencing abusive relationships, it not the other person's fault but rather what you think",

Schirmer said on twitter. So that's it, if he screws you it's your own fault.

Sunday, May 10, 2009 5:11:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Julie E, I agree with you that Schirmer's comments about the noofloo sounded arrogant. Even so, I don't wish illness on him or anyone else. I just wish that when there's anything such as a natural disaster or a pandemic, New-Wage gurus and hustledorks would think before they speak (or write). As long as they continue to say and write stoopid things, I will continue to snark about them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009 1:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Excellent points, Peter, re "salvation schlock" and other vexing matters. I still think, however, that you and Cagney need to write a book!

Sunday, May 10, 2009 1:07:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Lana, thanks for pointing out more yagya absurdities. The whole thing definitely smells of "scam."

BTW, it was your comment that finally inspired me to publish my schlocky tribute to New-Wage hucksters everywhere (see my May 10 entry).

Sunday, May 10, 2009 1:10:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon 5:11 AM wrote:
"'If you are constantly experiencing abusive relationships, it not the other person's fault but rather what you think',

Schirmer said on twitter. So that's it, if he screws you it's your own fault."

Yes, I chuckle every time Schirmer writes something like that on Twitter. It's always the other person's fault... Again, that's typical New-Wage huckster rationalization!

Sunday, May 10, 2009 1:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Lana said...

Cool. I inspired a schlocky tribute!

I love the rap parts. Know any rappers that could perform it? The next viral video!

Sunday, May 10, 2009 7:51:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Lana... actually I wasn't even thinking in terms of rap... I had vague notions of there being a melody of some kind (see my previous comment to the May 10 post, re the song "Little Girls" in "Annie").

Sunday, May 10, 2009 10:31:00 PM  

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